When you begin to think the Subscription Way, you get to focus your attention on the right things in your business.
Instead of focusing on client acquisition, you focus on client ascension. Instead of churning and burning through clients, you get to create deep, value-driven relationships. Instead of wondering where the next dollar will come from, you go to the well of dollars already coming in and dig deeper to find more.
Instead of feast or famine, you build Consistent Abundance.
The Client Value Escalator
I first learned about the concept of a “value ladder” from Russell Brunson.
It’s easy enough to understand. As the value you provide a client rises, the more money that customer spends with you.
In order for this to work, though, you need a natural path to ascension.
I prefer to think of this as a value escalator because it’s the opposite of the way web designers typically treat clients: As though they are on a conveyor belt.
This is not fair to our clients or good for our business! Why, then, do we perpetuate this vicious cycle?
Stop the madness.
The Mindset Shift
As you go deeper into the Subscription Way, you will need to adjust your product and service offerings in such a way that they are consistent with your business model.
Let’s say that, at least as of right now, you only offer website design services and only plan to offer website design services in the future. Right now, there are no plans to branch out into print design, email marketing, or anything else.
That’s fine! There is a path for you here as well, though it may not be so obvious, and we’ll cover that in just a bit.
So, what is the goal here? Well—if you are going to keep your Subscription Web Design clients coming back for more, you must give them something more to come back to.
For those in the back, let me zoom out and make one thing very clear:
If you are choosing to go follow the Subscription Way, you are already FAR ahead of the pack.
You value stability over windfalls, and you’ve designed your business with that in mind.
You have built-in transaction frequency, as you don’t have to work hard to get clients to spend with you every month. It happens automatically.
You have built-in Pain of Disconnect. It’s painful for people to leave because they would need to find another vendor, get their own hosting, make the transfer happen, point domain names, etc.
You’re creating what I call The Assumption of Continuity. Your clients will get the sense that they’ll just pay you forever to be their web guy/gal/team. (Forever clients? Heck yeah!)
You don’t need double-digit new clients to make ends meet. In fact, you can run a successful six-figure business on (easily) less than 20 clients.
The problem comes in if your clients get the perception that (1) you only sell website designs and (2) they’re getting everything you offer in their subscription.
By the way, I have made the mistake of having this perception myself and I am ashamed to say that it, in some ways, stunted the growth of my business.
I want to help you avoid that trap, which is why are having this conversation.
The Scaling Fork
In this industry, we often treat the word “Scale” as optional. I’m not sure that’s right.
I think in order for a business to be sustainable, it must not remain stagnant. It must grow—or scale—in at least some ways in order to not fall behind.
So the question is not really, “Am I going to scale the business?” It’s “How am I going to scale the business?”
As far as I can tell, a subscription web designer really only has two paths to scaling (i.e., the scaling “fork” in the road): Scaling In or Scaling Out (or both).
Scaling In is the art of diving even deeper into the kind of services you already provide. In this case, website design services. We already know you do that, so let’s start there.
Right now, you probably have two general categories of projects: Brand-new builds and rebuilds.
The “curse of knowledge” (see Storybrand by Donald Miller) influences our thinking, and we often look at a website build as one thing that we do and do well. We take for granted how much really goes into it.
In reality, a website build can be broken up into much smaller pieces, each of which can be sold on their own. By the way, this can even happen before the initial build.
For example, you could create a product on the front end called an “Advanced Website Audit.” If you take to a customer who has a current website but isn’t sure what they currently need, you could offer this product as a low-cost starting point to make sure they feel confident moving forward.
Most of this is probably work you are going to subconsciously “throw in for free” during the website build. But you could charge for this time instead.
The same thing is true on the back end, though. After a client completes a website with you, how do you keep the relationship going?
Today, the most common way seems to be Website Management plans. This is a starting place, and I love it because it is a continuity model.
But there’s more to be done here. We’ll use a tangible example below, but first, let’s talk about Scaling Out.
Scaling In is for those who do not want to bridge too far into digital marketing. It focuses on-site.
Scaling Out is for those who do want to make the leap and convert their web design business into a digital marketing business, where web design is just one service in a comprehensive list of many that help your clients grow.
While Scaling In and Out share many similar products and services, some are going to be reserved for Scaling Out, such as social media management, email newsletters, and reputation management.
Of course, these things hook into your clients’ websites, but the setup and management of those require a different skill set than web design.
We made the decision to Scale Out our business, with a Signature Process we developed called CREST:
Review and reputation management
Tracking and testing
Each of these high-level activities can nest into additional opportunities (and sometimes do). But, our focus is less about going deeper into those areas and more on branching “out” from one step to the next.
You can do the same whether you decide to Scale In or Scale Out! It all starts with creating a signature process of your own.
Your Signature Process
Every web designer should have a Signature Process. This is something that will help you design a consistent experience for your clients and help you show up with confidence from the very first sales opportunity.
To really work, your Signature Process needs three elements:
A Path of Ascension
A Path of Ascension is like a map. It’s the intentional journey you’d like to take clients on. It’s definitional. It clarifies what you want to do, what you can deliver on, and vice versa.
This path should make sense given the structure of your business, the needs of your target customer, and the overall expectations of your industry.
Your path could include a mix of services such as:
Full website design
Landing page design
Weekly/Monthly Blogging Packages
Monthly Maintenance Plans
Plugin Setup Packages
Email Opt-In Creation
Email Newsletter Creation
Review and Reputation Management
A/B Split Testing
Heatmapping and Optimization
Feel free to use my list above as a starting point and add/takeaway services until you have the largest menu possible of services you are willing to do.
Bonus if you are currently able to do them, but don’t let that stop you! You can always learn and/or find help. Trust me, your business will be better for it in the longterm.
Now, you’re going to choose between 3-5 of those services and create your Signature Process. Arrange them in ascending order of value, such that as you provide the relevant value for the service, you are charging the appropriate price, and moving deeper into the relationship.
The Scheduled check-in is like a waypoint. The thinking here is simple. If you don’t connect regularly with your clients, you can’t take them to the next step of your process.
In my opinion, this connection should look phone/video calls on a scheduled interval (monthly, quarterly, etc). I recommend quarterly.
This gives you a chance to create human connection, check in with your client, get a pulse for their business, and if appropriate, offer them the next step in your process.
Languaged Frameworks are like tools. A book could be written on this topic (and has been). This is how you differentiate and make everyday “boring” services sound new, fresh, and exciting.
It will give your clients the sense that you are knowledgeable, original, and able to help their situation.
Let’s do it together, shall we?
Putting Your Signature Process Together
In our example, you’ve decided to add the following five services to your Signature Process:
A website audit
Email opt-in creation
SEO reporting and monitoring
This terminology is something we understand and we will have to explain it to our clients. If we have to do that anyway, why not make it our own?
We can differentiate and bring a unique offering to the table by “Languaging” and clarifying.
So our Signature Process could become:
Website Effectiveness Audit
Custom Website Build
WebCare Monitoring & Maintenance
LeadGrabber Email Upgrade
Search Optimization Pro Package
By the way, nothing sacred about these names. I could have spent 10 minutes and come up with 5 different renditions of each.
The point isn’t necessarily what each service becomes, the point is that it becomes something relatively unique.
Scale is Not an Option
At the end of the day, you must scale. Whether In or Out, it matters not, but scale must be the goal in order to craft amazing relationships with your clients and build stability into your business.
It probably goes without saying, but for any services you decide to add, do your best to offer it within the context of an additional subscription!
Consider the email opt-in service. Sure, you could do that one time, charge a nice little fee for that, and it’s not. But you know as well as I do that new lead magnets need to be created fairly often.
Why not offer a subscription service that delivers a new lead magnet with an email autoresponder each quarter? (Heck, I might do that!)
It’s all about being creative and serving your customers at a high level. You got this!